By Jean Gatera
Paul Rusesabagina,leader of the terrorist organization MRCD-FLN,appeared today in Nyarugenge Intermediate Court to hear the ruling on his appeal of a 30-day preventive detention sentence handed him by a lower court last month. He is remanded at Mageragere Prison for the pre-trial stage of his court case. Rusesabagina, charged with 13 counts of terrorist related offenses, had appealed on several grounds including jurisdiction issuesand medical grounds. On the 17th of September, the Kicukiro Primary Court ruled that Rusesabagina be remanded as he was a sufficient flight risk.
The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court Presiding Judge, Adolphe Udahemuka,detailed Rusesabagina’s appeal and ruled on each challenge raised by the defense. On the primary court’s jurisdiction, in which the defense had argued that the Kicukiro Primary Court was not competent to adjudicate, Udahemuka ruled against Rusesabagina stating that the place of arrest was within thejurisdiction. On the argument that Rusesabagina’s team posed in the classification of his alleged crimes using the new 2018 penal code, the judge ruled against Rusesabagina, saying both the old and the new penal law catered for the alleged crimes.
In his appeal, Rusesabagina had argued that he was stateless owing to his taking Belgium citizenship when Rwandan law had not yet allowed dual citizenship. The court found no record of Rusesabagina renouncing his Rwandan nationality at birth, and made an important note: “The alleged crimes were committed on Rwandan territory”, thus giving jurisdiction to Rwandan courts irrespective of the suspect’s citizenship.
The court also ruled on the assertion by the suspect that he had no direct control of FLN operations. Rusesabagina’s remorsefulness and own admissions in court, according to Judge Udahemuka, implied that the suspect had something to do with the terrorist attacks. The court also pointed out that as the leader of the MRCD-FLN coalition, Rusesabagina had not previously denounced or condemned the terrorist attacks.
In the ruling, the judge said that they sought to establish links between the anti-Rwanda propaganda online radio Ubumwe and FLN. With Rusesabagina’s admission that he paid the salary of the Ubumwe radio presenter and that he gave 20,000 Euros to the FLN, the court found sufficient links. Furthermore, the fact that Rusesabagina was the President of the MRCD-FLN coalition raised the issue of “superior’s responsibility”.
In similar news, two senior FLN members, Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsegimana, who were both former spokespersons of the terrorist outfits, are facing trial, with their cases already merged. Callixte Nsabimana who also doubled as the terrorist organization’s second vice president, deputizing Rusesabagina, pleaded guilty in his trial and requested that his case be merged with Rusesabagina’s. If granted, the joint trial would further establish responsibility of the superior (Rusesabagina) and his accomplices in terror. “This trial can never be about Rusesabagina alone, even if he has the bigger name,” said a Kigali legal expert.
Rusesabagina’s defense team claims he doesn’t consider himself Rwandan. The appeal on health grounds was also rejected as Rusesabagina admitted to being well taken care of, and had not displayed any complications. “We therefore find all the reasons advanced by defense challenging the decision by the lower court to be baseless,” Judge Udahemuka said, adding, “both parties agree on the fact that FLN killed people and that is not debatable. What is left is determining the extent of Rusesabagina’s complicity or lack thereof or any other parties involved, and that is for the substantive phase of the trial.”
Court ruled that Rusesabagina be remanded in prison awaiting his substantive trial. The suspectand his legal team said they were not happy with the ruling. Emeline Nyembo, one of Rusesabagina’s lawyers said: “We are certainly not happy with the ruling but unfortunately we can’t appeal against it. However we shall continue pushing for his release as we prepare for the substantive phase of the trial.”